San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Pacheco Softens Stance On Submitting CAFTA

IN the face of mounting pressure from the business sector and many legislators, President Abel Pacheco announced Sept. 8 that he would consider sending the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA) to the Legislative Assembly after his Council Of Notables turns in its analysis of the document today.This signals a departure from the President’s long-held position that he would wait for the assembly to pass his pet project, the Permanent Fiscal Reform Package.However, the tax reform was bumped from first to third place on the legislative agenda last week only days after Assembly President Gerardo González announced he would hold up work on the bill unless embattled Finance Minister Federico Carrillo stepped down (TT, Sept. 17). The President also received a letter signed by 38 legislators demanding he submit CAFTA in a timely manner.His change of position may be a tactical move designed to ensure legislators don’t oppose the tax plan as a way to delay CAFTA discussion, according to Juan José Vargas, vice-president of the assembly.“Because (some legislators) don’t want a free-trade agreement with the United States, they don’t approve the fiscal plan,” Vargas said in a statement from Casa Presidencial.CAFTA detractors responded to news of Pacheco’s new stance by announcing plans to hold a protest march Sept. 20, the day the President and his Cabinet will review the Pacheco-appointed council’s conclusions. The Patriotic Education Union announced Wednesday that workers from the state telecommunications and insurance companies – both state monopolies that would be opened up to competition under CAFTA – as well as other unions, student groups and government workers, will join in the protest.

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